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BT05: Xenopsychology

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Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Posts: 355
Location: Rangstadt, Allied Europe, Earth, NEC

PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 2:15 am    Post subject: BT05: Xenopsychology Reply with quote

Captain Gabriel Tynes moved quickly down the hallway. His companion, whose name he could not recall but who wore Captain's bars as well as he, spoke bitterly as they went along. He looked the sort who was used to hiding his irritation, though - tidy black hair with no sign of balding or graying despite at least fifty cycles, a heroic jawline and charismatic features made the man stand out. He walked like a civilian instead of a military man, though, and by the way his insignia hung (slightly out of place) and his accent (slightly Interlinguan) it seemed likely his rank was honourary. The man was part of Talon HQ, in the Foreign Analysis Department - an anthropologist. And he was annoyed.

"Thank you for coming off your vacation so early, Captain," the man spoke quickly. Another signal went off on his head - 'vacation' and not 'leave'. definitely civvie. "I wish we didn't have to call you back so soon, but ... these Utopians are just impossible! Stubborn, uncooperative! By the way they behave, you'd think it was us asking for *their* help."

Gabriel grinned a sideways grin. "Yeah, that sounds about right." While they hadn't been uncivil, they were anything but warm. Not very good at making friends, those two. They weren't quite uncooperative enough to warrant this sort of a reaction, though. What had the Talons done to offend the Utopians to outright belligerence like this? He added, "They weren't really *that* bad, though."

"They're unwilling to compromise at all. Their 'Banners' - interesting societal indicator, by the way. We figure that Koglund is a True Samarkian society."

"Oh?" Gabriel let the scientist-turned Captain talk as they entered an elevator together. "Keep going, I'm just looking up the latest report on them." Gabriel lied smoothly. He had been keeping up with the activities of the Utopians since their arrival and knew that nothing newsworthy had come up. It did give him a chance to surreptitiously look up the civilian-Captain's name, though, since the man hadn't a nameplate on his uniform.

"They've got all the signs of it. Apparent horizontal class-separation, high degree of social control, internal propaganda, moderate to high degrees of xenophobia. It makes me wonder whether they're in the static state or the decay state, however."

Tynes pressed the tab on his data glove as the lift stopped. Aha. Captain Micha Viadessa, double doctorate in predictive psychology and anthropology. "The latter, if the Earthers have anything to say about it, at least. How long did you say the discussions with them have been stalled, Micha?"

"About two days. We've really lost steam, and it's starting to interfere with my study. I need to get some new data sets from them."

They walked down the corridor of Pacifica HQ, which was all cool blues and greys. It was as if the designers were trying to banish the hot ochre and terracotta above their heads. The air conditioning worked well, at least. As did the cawfee machine. He stopped to get a cup outside of the briefing room, letting Viadessa continue on. "I need to get some data of them being more co-operative - what their tolerance levels are, what their reactions are to which triggers, their friend-group stratigraphy; you understand."

Gabriel nodded emphatically - Viadessa was talking well above Tynes' education at this point, but he knew when questions would be useful and when they would get in the way. This moment was certainly one for looking thoughtful and nodding agreeably. Probably a few more of those moments coming up soon. The civilian-Captain opened the door to the room and let Tynes in first.

Inside was Colonel Meijer (more a politician than a military man, really, though he had come through the ranks properly enough) a smattering of Lieutenant Colonels, and a few specialists - some active Talons and others HQ staff. Tynes saluted, even if Viadessa did not.

And of course there were the Utopians. Osbearn and Scildfreja (did she even have a last name?) sat like two unhappy birds in the middle of a thorny nest made of Terranovans. Their spherical, spidery Spidhra drone sat in the corner of the room behind them, sulking as if it had been sent there for peeing on the carpet. By the severe looks on the Utopian's faces, it may as well have been the case.

Their eyes did rise and their expressions changed to show a hint of relief as Tynes arrived, though they were not the first to speak. Colonel Meijer, Norlight through and through, gestured to Tynes after he saluted in return. "Now that the Captain is here, perhaps we can give this another try?"

An orderly pulled out a chair for Tynes close to the Utopians and he sat down, giving both of them a polite nod and a brief smile. He was surprised to find it returned to him. Osbearn, as usual, was the one to speak. "Thank you, Captain Tynes."

"Gladly, Caelin. What's the trouble?"

The both of them pressed their lips together in unison. He idly wondered if their hearts beat in rhythm, too. This time Scildfreja spoke, her voice as whisper-quiet as usual. "Can we trust them, Gabriel?"

He blinked, momentarily stunned. Nevermind the fact that the Colonel was his superior and could have Tynes discharged if he saw just cause, how did one come out with such a blank-faced question like that, and in public, in front of everyone?

It clicked a half second later. This was all for show. Like so much else about the Utopians' strange behaviour, this was about saving face - looking tough, regardless of substance. He answered smoothly, managing to salvage the situation before anyone was embarrassed, "Yes, I think you can."

Caelin and Scildfreja frowned and their eyes narrowed, but they both sat back in their chairs, and the room relaxed a little bit. The Colonel began to address the two of them again, and they began to answer in short, stilted phrases, mulling over what they could reveal and what they could hide, but the information was new, even to Tynes. He listened patiently, nodded encouragingly at points, and smiled apologetically when questions became too intimate for the two of them to reveal. And all the while, he thought of what monumental difficulty it must have been to send these two out on their mission, for a society such as theirs. From everything he could see, the Koglunders were defiant and xenophobic, with a strong in-group / out-group mentality. Us and them, black and white, good and evil. At the same time they were highly proud and valued self sufficiency.

What did it take for these people, who have laboured under twenty cycles of bitter war, to finally stretch out to the stars and look for allies? They didn't seem to have the talent for it at all. Instead they almost seemed to be sabotaging themselves with harsh self-imposed rules. Perhaps they intended the mission for failure - was there political machinations back on Utopia that ensured the exact wrong soldiers be sent on this mission? That didn't jive. No, it was something else, something more subtle. They called for Tynes, asked for him specifically. They wouldn't delay for two days for show, would they? And co-operate just because Tynes said it was okay?

His meagre psychology studies described briefly a "returning hero" phenomenon that anthropologists often experienced. Scientists who first visited a remote tribal village in the Okovango reported being treated distantly - politely, but cooly, by the natives. On their second trips to the tribe, however, they were received as returning friends, and were welcomed in as family - indeed, as any other villager might be. Could similar effects be acting here?

Then there was another click, and he understood. There were a few more Talons here - Tyrelle had met the Utopians briefly back on Caprice, and she was here, and seemed to be getting almost as many glances from the beleaguered Utopians as he. They spared these combat troops their scorn, doling that solely out on the others. It wasn't that they didn't trust anyone at all. They just didn't trust anyone who hadn't proven themselves.

It all made sense. These two, despite their youth, have been through dozens of cycles of war - it's all that they've known. With an increasingly shrinking zone of safety around them, of course they would be more and more cautious with whom they trusted. And Tynes, being the man leading the team which had such a similar objective to their own, naturally earned their respect through his actions. The other Talons, being the soldiers that they were, proved their worthiness through sacrifice. No amount of office work could compare to it - at least not in the Utopians' eyes it seemed.

It put him in an unusually powerful position. He wasn't their commander, but in reality he was their cipher to Terranova - he would have to help them make sense of what was around them, showing them what was trustworthy and what wasn't. Like his children.

Gabriel grinned slightly, and began to mentally tot up the paperwork he would need to do. A few tours of places around the planet would be welcome to them - they had just gone through as gruelling a cycle as had BT05, after all, and a vacation wouldn't hurt them. Nor would a little bit of sun. If Gabriel was going to have to be the one to prove to them that Terranova was trustworthy, he was at least going to let them see what Terranova was like.
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